Pope Benedict XVI and a Tender Question to an Astronaut

One of the things a good father does is allow his children to speak their minds (respectfully, of course), especially when those children are experiencing sadness and sorrow.

Earlier this month, the Holy Father spent some time in conversation with the astronauts aboard the international space station.

He asked about, then listened to the response of, an Italian astronaut grieving the recent death of his mother.

My last question is for Paolo. Dear Paolo, I know that your Mother passed away recently and that when you get back home in a few days she will not be there to greet you. We are all close to you in your loss, and I personally have prayed for her. How did you cope with this sorrowful time? In your space station, do you feel alone, separated and cut off, or do you feel united among yourselves and part of a community that accompanies you with attention and affection?

Holy Father, I’ve felt your prayers, your prayers even now: it’s true, we are away from this world, orbiting around the earth and having a vantage-point of looking upon the earth and feeling all that’s happening on it. My colleagues here aboard the station — Dimitri, Kelly, Ron, Alexander and Andrei — have been close in this important, very intense, time for me, just as my siblings, my aunts, cousins and relatives were close to my mother in her last moments. I’m grateful for all this. I’ve felt myself far, but also very close, and surely the thought of feeling all you close to me, closely united in this moment, has been an extreme comfort. I also thank the European and American space agencies which made their resources available so I could talk to my mother in her last hours alive.

His question is beautiful, as is the response.

It made me realize that – though I may recognize my children’s suffering – I do not always respond the way the Holy Father did.



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